Turning The Tide is a weekly segment where Evan will pick the offensive and defensive play that turned the game for the Bucs. Whether it was for good or for bad, we will break it all down and tell you what went wrong or what went right.
Chris Godwin’s 47-yard reception on 3rd and 12 in the fourth quarter
You wanna talk about a clutch play? This is one of the more clutch plays in recent memory.
The Falcons had just scored on the previous drive to make it a 30-27 game. They were able to march 75-yards in just six plays and were starting to have their way with the Tampa Bay defense. Points were absolutely crucial on this drive.
Everything was looking pretty good until Dante Fowler Jr. came unblocked off the edge for an easy sack. Not only did it put the Bucs in a precarious 3rd and 12, but it took them completely out of field goal range.
The Bucs needed to make a play. Fortunately for them, they have Tom Brady as well as one of the best receivers in the game in Chris Godwin to get the job done.
Tampa Bay comes out in a 3x1 set with 11 personnel. Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and Godwin line up outside-in on the strong-side while Scotty Miller is the lone outside man on the weak-side of the formation.
Gronk goes in motion and helps take on the edge rusher once the ball is snapped and that helps Godwin get a free release off the line of scrimmage. The Falcons rush three defenders, which is usually a bad recipe for these situations. As you can see, no one gets close to Brady.
The Falcons rotate to Cover 3 after the snap. Brady knows that the middle of the field is closed in this coverage, but the top of the numbers is open. Godwin sees the single-high safety and breaks his route to the sideline. Brady throws a perfect pass and Godwin is able to make the catch thanks to tremendous concentration and hands. He does a great job of boxing out the safety, Ricardo Allen, as well.
It’s a really good play design, too. The key to Godwin getting open is Brown’s deep curl route. Cover 3 corners are supposed to cover vertical assignments, but Byron Leftwich has Brown run the curl a few yards past the sticks in order to keep the corner out of the throwing window. The corner is forced to stay honest since Brown breaks off the route. Once he sees Brady target Godwin, it’s too late.
Godwin even talked about how better chemistry has allowed for plays like this to happen. Remember the Rams game when Brady thought Cameron Brate was going to break more toward the sideline, but instead Brate went toward the middle of the field and it resulted in an interception? This play represents more of what was supposed to happen before that interception. The credit goes to more reps and practice.
This play absolutely turned the tide in favor of the Bucs. Godwin would go on to score a touchdown three plays later —on another 3rd down— to put the Bucs up by 10 points with around 3:58 left in the game. If the Bucs don’t make this play then the Falcons offense is back on the field down just three points and facing a tired Bucs defense that has its backs against the wall.
Sean Murphy-Bunting’s forced fumble and recovery in the fourth quarter
Sometimes a good play is just a good play.
As simple-minded as that sounds, it was the case with SMB and his forced fumble/fumble recovery in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
This play happened on the drive that followed Godwin’s 47-yard reception. Ndamukong Suh was able to break through the pass protection and sack Matt Ryan on first down, which brings up a 2nd and 17, but an 18-yard reception from Calvin Ridley erased the negative yardage, gained the first down, and had the Falcons on the move.
But SMB’s play quickly ended any spark that Ridley’s reception provided. Here he is, following Ridley as he goes in motion, signaling that the Bucs are in man coverage.
Ryan hikes the ball and Ridley runs a simple drag across the field. This play is designed to clear out the underneath area for a Ridley catch-and-run. The receivers are running rub routes and are essentially blockers. The Bucs do a good job of manning up on them.
Murphy-Bunting does a good job of avoiding the rub/working through traffic and then takes a great angle toward Ridley. He does the rest of the work from there by stripping Ridley of the ball and then falling on it.
It’s great hustle and pure determination to make a play on SMB’s end. You have to love seeing this type of stuff in the fourth quarter.
And talk about a major confidence boost for the second-year corner heading into the playoffs. Bruce Arians even said a couple of weeks ago that SMB could “play better”, so it was nice to see him make an impact play.
“It’s been a while for me since I’ve had a big, impactful play, I would say. But, honestly, I’m just blessed for the coaches to still believe in me and trust in me throughout the year,” SMB said after the game. “Obviously, this year, I’ve had my ups and my lows. It just means a lot to me. Each and every game [and] each and every day coach is telling me, ‘Let’s go, let’s be that player you are. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be.’ [He’s] always keeping that confidence there and keeping my morale high. I’m very blessed for that.”
This play halted any type of chance for a Falcon comeback and set up the final touchdown to Antonio Brown to officially end the game.
Which play do YOU think turned the tide in favor of the Bucs the most? Let us know via the poll/comment section below!
Which play turned the tide in favor of the Bucs the most?
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Chris Godwin’s 47-yard reception
Sean Murphy-Bunting’s forced fumble and recovery